By Leah Mishkin
NJTV News interviewed a gambling addict who asked to remain anonymous. But, he wanted to share his story.
“I was working downtown during Sept 11. I saw a lot, lost some friends, saw the planes hitting the towers and that was what triggered it,” he said.
Instead of dealing with possible Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD), he used gambling as a way to escape what he had witnessed.
He was hooked on illegal offshore gambling and internet gambling. And, he says it eventually progressed into an addiction where he was spending more time and money. And in the process, further isolating himself.
“It lead to a lot of personal problems in life, it lead to problems in the criminal justice system, loss of job, just multiple problems and it spiraled out of control.” he said.
It’s stories like these that inspired the conversation at Stockton University. The American Gaming Association and casino industry executives came together to introduce a new code of conduct. Essentially, it’s a way to promote responsible gambling, something they want to put into play in New Jersey. One step already being taken is the exclusion list; a way individuals can block themselves from playing.
“That’s the person who’s saying I have a problem and I have to stop, and the only way I can stop in New Jersey is to put my name on the exclusion list. I can’t go into a casino and gamble anymore, I can’t go online and gamble anymore so those are all voluntary actions.” he said.
In New Jersey, about 70 percent of residents reported gambling in some form last year, according to a Rutgers report.
But the report goes on to say that, since New Jersey legalized online gambling in 2013, the percentage of residents considered to have a ‘gambling disorder’ is now three times the average rate around the country.
“We hear the calls, we hear the desperation, sometimes in people’s voices, so we try to alert the gaming industry of trends they hear,” Neva Prior, Executive Director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey said.
Prior, along with the non-profit Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, spreads a message of responsible gambling and gives people resources on where to get help.
“A lot of seniors are gambling now because there is an excess amount of money coming in from retirements and things like that,” Prior explained. “You’ve lost your loved ones, so you go down to the casino because you think you’ll have friends there.”
Prior says it’s important to ask yourself questions, like: ‘Am I gambling too much money? Am I gambling the mortgage? My son’s school money saved for college? She says she’s seen all of those signs.
“I’ve had women call me up and say the sheriff is at the door because their house is in foreclosure,” Prior said.
Those stories are some that the gambling addict who spoke with NJTV News says he can relate to. He offers this advice – take steps like putting your name on the exclusion lists. It’s a tool he uses himself, but it’s not the end goal. Because at the end of the day, he says it’s about behavioral change like staying active, cooking, gardening, giving back and helping other people. So far, that’s working for him:
“One day at a time,” he says, “It’s been over eight years, I’m very thankful.” he said.